Is there really such a thing as ‘glamping’? Sleeping in leaky tipis; wet walks; swimming round a choppy lake in the rain and medieval mayhem with whingy 9-year-olds! How to round off a sabbatical year in style…

That’s it…

It’s done….

Next Tuesday I have to go back to reality and start work again after an amazingly productive year off. I’m in two minds about it…. But that’s not what this post’s about.

So, as some kind of mad rebellion, I filled the last few weeks of my sabbatical to the brim with UK-based camping activities that were bound to end in soggy socks and grumpiness!

Actually, despite the soggy socks, the grumpiness was not too bad!

Not too bad…….

I had booked us into the National Trust Hoathwaite camping site tipis in February, when I signed up for a 3.8k swim round Coniston lake after my hamstring pulled for the second time and I accepted that an April marathon was out. In fact, I have only just started thinking about running races again now, in late August, that’s how lengthy and irritating this injury has been, but I won’t bore you with details.

So, anyway. I booked a tipi at Hoathwaite and a pod after for a few days in Great Langdale …. I can’t remember why! Presumably I was trying to find a cost-effective way of doing the Coniston swim then moving on to somewhere my husband loves…..

When we arrived at Hoathwaite there was no view, you couldn’t even see the lake through the cloud. This was the best it got…

Now, as a dour lady pointed out to me, rain is why you come to the Lake District, which is fine.

But why do they call tipis ‘glamping’?

I had assumed that as we were paying for a pre-erected tent that had been marketed as ‘glamping’ that someone would have checked the guy ropes were right before we got there!

Apparently not!

It survived the first night.

We got no sleep because of the rain and wind, but we didn’t get wet.

The next day, we went for a walk with my 9-year-old son up the Old Man of Coniston and didn’t actually get a soaking.

I had forgotten the gorgeous falls you pass on the way up via Miner’s bridge and the isolated Youth Hostel below the Copper mines.

The weather cleared up and we didn’t get a drenching

But, as the second photo shows, cloud blanketed the higher slopes.

It was eerie in a fun way, climbing up past disused slate quarries in the cloud. There’s loads to look at on this route up The Old Man – old metal pullies that you have to climb over/under; rail tracks; fallen pylons; abandoned shafts.

Sounds dangerous, but if you stick to the path and don’t climb over the slate waste heaps like some silly people we saw, I would class it as relatively safe, even in poor visibility. And I’m neurotic with a dreadful sense of direction.

The path is mostly clear if you take your time and look where you’re going. But going off it is a bad idea…..

At the approach to the peak, however, it started looking like this…

There’s a tarn in the second photo if you can spot it…. And so the amazing views to the Isle of Mann were obliterated.

We were going to go back via Goats Hause/water, but it was also majorly windy from that direction. I got buffeted and my son was freaked out, so we crouched behind the cairn at the peak with a bunch of other nutters to have hot chocolate, then beat a retreat with an unimpressed boy back the way we had come.

The peak experience didn’t sell hill walking to him.

Then the heavens opened and him and his dad woke up soaked at 4 am when the tipi leaked.

So, he was remarkably unwhingy when he had to walk 2.5 miles in the rain then hang around Coniston whilst I did the SIevents 3.8 k swim.

The swim was okay. They had to change the route due to debris so it was a bit repetitive, but the lake was warm. It was a bit disappointing how many people thought it was okay to try to swim over you, though. I have come to expect this in triathlons so it doesn’t scare me, but you don’t normally get it in open water swimming events! Strangely, it wasn’t the speedies that did it, either, it was the people in the slowest group with me! None of us were winning anything, so trying to drown fellow swimmers seems a bit extreme….or is it just me?

When I finally got out (I am VERY annoyed with my time. From my 2k time of 43 mins I should have easily done it in 90mins, but it was 99 mins!!) my husband and son had decided that sleeping in wet sleeping bags another night was not conducive to having fun, so my lovely husband kindly booked us into the New Dungeon Ghyll hotel in Langdale, which was LOVELY.

We dried everything out overnight ready for round two of the glamping experience; drank beer to take advantage of the fact that we didn’t have to walk half a mile for a wee in the rain, and left our luggage with them whilst we walked up the gorgeous waterfalls to Stickle Tarn.

As a keen (albeit slow) open water swimmer, Stickle tarn, below the intimidating Pavey Arc with its terrifying-looking Jack’s Rake scramble, was really inviting.

It’s definitely one to work into my urban fantasy trilogy. My phone is full of photos I have taken of places that I plan to use in that trilogy somewhere. But in the low cloud, Stickle Tarn was particularly evocative. What could live in it? I’ve had a water sprite already, and this tarn, with the bleak rocks looming over it, is so haunting that it needs to be something different…..I will have to think!

Speaking of haunting, as we stood drinking our hot chocolate, we saw two people climbing up Jack’s Rake on Pavey Arc – a climb that Mountain Rescue are called to regularly and that has resulted in a number of fatal falls, apparently. As we watched, the low cloud drifted across the fell and hid it entirely, reminding me of just how careful you have to be when fell walking.

Visibility can change in seconds and I was glad that I wasn’t the people up there, unable to see the drop about a foot to their left.

Not that I ever would be. I’m more likely to do an Iron Man than climb that and I have no plan to do one of those.

We moved to a pod at Great langdale campsite after that, which was much better!

I had a nice run, then we had a bottle of wine on the porch watching the rain. We had planned to do Crinkle Crags the next (and final) day, but the Crinkles were entirely invisible in the cloud, so we had a walk to Blea tarn, followed by a fun scramble up Side Pike. From there, we could look down on our campsite and Blea tarn, and across to Stickle Ghyll and Pavey Arc.

There were ravens playing at the top. Or were they trying to scate us off? As we scrambled down, they landed on the peak cairn as if to claim it back from the human invaders.

I’d had enough of glamping, let alone camping by the time I got back, but being me, I’d arranged to go to Hurstmonceaux medieval festival with a friend and her son.

Apart from the relentless rain on Sunday, though (we absconded back to mine at 3pm for a film and dry feet) we had great fun.

The fantastic re-enacters in the living History camp gave this boys a lesson in sword fighting; let them hold loads of weapons and try on armour and told them loads about the medieval era.

The jousting was amazing….with proper hand to hand combat involving swords and axes, and they loved the castle siege. Despite the fact that they both said they’d seen a million owls during the bird of prey demo, both of them were really excited by the birds on their perches and asked loads of questions. All in all a successful, engaging, educational festival. Shame we missed some good bands and evening fire jousting/shows on the Sunday due to the relentless rain, but the boys would have been unbearable!

So now I have six days to recover, do some serious swim and run training for the 5k swim and half marathon I have planned for September and October, and get ready to go back to work.

It’s been a fun, productive year off. ‘Dunn‘ is published, though I have no idea how it is selling (I’m not expecting great things….marketing is HARD) and I’ve finished the first draft of book one of The Longhand Chronicles and started book two.

Now I just need to keep up the writing momentum and finish the trilogy.

I’d better use at least some of the photos that are clogging up my phone…..

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